If you’re a college student preparing for a career, you have more to do than just course work. Laying a foundation to build your career requires reaching out to others—and personal branding can help you get started. Personal branding can be one of the most effective methods for marketing yourself to potential employers, as well as developing your professional networking and job search skills.
Who are you? It’s a question that takes more time to answer than you might think. Make a list of the things that make you a valuable asset for possible employers, as well as other qualities that make you unique: your education, your work and volunteering experience, and any life experiences you think are important to your career. Once you have a workable set of traits you want to feature for marketing your skills, you can start to define a personal brand that fits you and your goals.
Being yourself shouldn’t take much effort—and when you’re building your personal brand, keeping it simple can make things easier for you. You’ll still need to spend time cultivating your best assets, but trying to embellish or pad your experiences will come across as inauthentic. You’re marketing yourself—so offer your best self without relying on bells and whistles.
Your personal brand is you—so find ways make yourself worth remembering. Whether it’s a simple logo or a whimsical business card, you’ll want to use tools that can help you stand out. A blog, web site or Facebook page devoted to your professional pursuits can be a way to attract new network contacts. Find something that represents you and your personality, and make that your calling card.
Social media and the Internet have made it easy for people to have a significant online presence. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you can create one: it’s easy and useful, even if you’re still working toward your online degree. Students use LinkedIn to keep in touch with classmates, find intern opportunities, and start growing their personal and professional networks. Other social media networks like Facebook and Twitter can be useful to build an audience—just be sure to remove content that might be confusing or offensive.
Creating a personal brand isn’t a part-time job; it requires your attention every day. Use your social media networks and your blog to maintain an online presence—but you’ll also need to get out into the real world and meet people as well. Keep your eyes open for networking events in your area—or, if you’re ambitious, you could partner with classmates or local businesses to plan an event. Being an active part of your professional network and community can yield real dividends, so invest the time and effort it takes to make your personal brand visible.
Your personal brand won’t be built overnight—and chances are that as you enter the workforce and meet more people, your brand can evolve. That’s a good thing—being open and adaptable is another trait that employers appreciate. The more you work to shape your personal brand, the easier it could be to present your best self.